Xavier University of Louisiana

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Xavier University of Louisiana
LARGEIMAGE 353343.jpg
MottoDeo Adjuvante Non Timendum (Latin)
Motto in English
With God's help there is nothing to fear
TypePrivate historically black university
EstablishedOctober 6, 1925 (1925-10-06)
FounderSt. Katharine Drexel
Religious affiliation
Roman Catholic (Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament)
Academic affiliations
ACCU, UNCF, Space-grant
Endowment$171 million (2018)[1]
ChairmanSonia Perez
PresidentDr. C. Reynold Verret
ProvostDr. Anne McCall
Students3,231 (Fall 2018)[2]
Location, ,
United States

29°57′55″N 90°06′25″W / 29.965219°N 90.106994°W / 29.965219; -90.106994Coordinates: 29°57′55″N 90°06′25″W / 29.965219°N 90.106994°W / 29.965219; -90.106994
ColorsGold   and   White
NicknameGold Rush and Gold Nuggets
Sporting affiliations
Sports9 varsity teams (4 men's & 5 women's)
XULA Logo Online.png

Xavier University of Louisiana (also known as XULA) is a private, historically black, Roman Catholic university in New Orleans, Louisiana. It is the only Catholic HBCU and, upon the canonization of Katharine Drexel in 2000, became the first Catholic university founded by a saint.

As of 2021, of the 251 Roman Catholic Colleges and Universities operating in the United States and the 107 schools recognized as "Historically Black Colleges and Universities", Xavier University of Louisiana remains the first and only institution to be both.[3]



Katharine Drexel, supported by the interest of a substantial inheritance from her father, banker-financier Francis Drexel, founded and staffed many institutions throughout the United States in an effort to help educate Native Americans and African Americans. Many of her chosen staff included sisters of the religious order she founded and served in as superior, the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament.

Aware of the lack of Catholic education available to young black people in the South, Drexel came to New Orleans and hoped to establish a high school. The chosen site was previously occupied by Southern University, which had moved to Baton Rouge, Louisiana after an influx of white neighbors petitioned for its relocation.

On April 13, 1915, Harry McEnerny, serving as an agent to Drexel, purchased the property for $18,000.[4] Due to Drexel's plan to build a school for black students, she knew that the city and community would never approve the sale. By going through an agent, the sale was allowed, but even so, vandals smashed all the building's windows after learning of Drexel's intent.[5]

High school era[edit]

The high school, now known as Xavier University Preparatory School, opened on 27 September 1915[6] and was originally named after Francis Xavier.[7] In May 1916, Xavier was incorporated under the title, "Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for Indians and Colored People, of Louisiana," according to the laws of the state, and the name, "Xavier" University, was cut into the stone slab above the main entrance thus replacing the name, "Southern University."[8] Also known as Xavier Prep, it remained in operation until 2013; today, St. Katharine Drexel Preparatory School operates from the same location on Magazine Street in New Orleans.

In 1917 the school was expanded to include a normal school both to provide training for black teachers and because Archbishop James H. Blenk was eager for graduates to teach six new black parishes that were planned.[7] On September 9, 1921, the Louisiana Department of Education officially recognized "Xavier University" as a State Approved High School.[9] By 1922, the school was described as the only Catholic institution in the United States that offered "a full four years' high school course to colored boys."[10] While this may not be true, Xavier University was certainly by far the most prominent Catholic institution offering such educational opportunities at the time.[11]

University founding[edit]

In 1925, Xavier University of Louisiana came into being when the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences was established. The State of Louisiana Department of Education officially recognized Xavier University as a four-year college on March 19, 1928, with the first degrees awarded two years later.[12] The College of Pharmacy was next to be opened in 1927.

Recognizing the university's need for a separate identity and room to expand, Drexel bought a tract of undeveloped land for a campus on the corner of Palmetto and Pine Streets in 1929. To avoid blockage of the deal, Drexel again purchased the property through an agent.

Construction of the U-shaped, Gothic Revival-style Main Building, Convent and Library, made from Indiana limestone and now on the National Register of Historic Places, were completed between 1932 and 1937.[13] The Main Administration Building was dedicated by the Most Reverend Archbishop of Philadelphia, his Eminence, Cardinal Dennis Joseph Dougherty, on October 12, 1932 - a date since kept as "Foundation Day," or "Founders Day," by Xavier University.[8] The Administration building is also a City of New Orleans landmark.[14]

United States civil rights movement[edit]

In May 1961, a group of Freedom Riders, anti-racial segregation civil rights activists, arrived in New Orleans by plane after bus drivers in Alabama refused to take them to Montgomery, Alabama. Locals, aware of the fire bombings and other attacks against other Freedom Riders, refused to accommodate them with lodging out of fear of retaliatory violence. Norman C. Francis, then the university's Dean of Men, secretly arranged for the group to stay several days in a dormitory on campus. Francis received permission from University President Sister Mary Josephina to allow the group to occupy space on the third floor of St. Michael's Hall under the condition that the press would not be alerted as to the move.

Pope John Paul II visit[edit]

In 1987, Pope John Paul II addressed the presidents of all U.S. Catholic colleges from the courtyard of the Xavier administration building.

Hurricane Katrina and beyond[edit]

Hurricane Katrina made landfall in August 2005, striking the New Orleans area. Xavier, located in the lower-lying Gert Town section and adjacent to the Washington-Palmetto Canal,[15] suffered damage to almost every structure on campus. Many buildings sat partially submerged for extended periods of time following the hurricane. University president Norman Francis organized boats and buses to transport stranded faculty, staff, and students from the campus to safe areas.[16] Students began returning to the university in January 2006.[17]

In April 2006, the nation of Qatar donated $17.5 million to assist the university in hurricane recovery and in expanding the school's College of Pharmacy.[18] The groundbreaking ceremony in 2008 was attended by Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, leader of Qatar, and on 15 October 2010 the school's Qatar Pharmacy Pavilion opened, adding 60,000 square feet (5,600 m2) adjacent to the existing College of Pharmacy building.


Barack Obama gave the XULA commencement speech in August 2006.[19] New Orleans' archbishop, Alfred C. Hughes, declined to attend, citing Obama's pro-choice political viewpoints and the fact that he was not consulted prior to the event.[20]

Obama returned to XULA after becoming president, visiting New Orleans in August 2010 to commemorate the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. He gave an address at Xavier complimenting the work of the leaders of the community and affirming the commitment to continue to aid in the rebuilding of the area.[21]

Xavier University received the "Katrina Compassion Award" from the United States government Corporation for National and Community Service in 2006, for the combined efforts of an estimated 60% of its students in rebuilding the neighborhoods damaged by the hurricane.[22]


In 2018, Xavier had an endowment of approximately $171 million, which was the fourth highest among Louisiana's colleges and universities.[23]

In 2018, Dr. David Robinson-Morris founded the university's Center for Equity, Justice, and the Human Spirit, a social justice hub. Out of this came the Xavier Story Project, which promotes the history of the university from its founding to the present. This was headed by Emmy Award-winning journalist Helen Malmgren, who thereafter teamed with Robinson Morris to create an investigative journalism program for students.

In July 2020, Xavier received $20 million from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, the largest single gift in the university's history.[24] The initial contact with Scott was made by Robinson-Morris about a year beforehand.

Robinson-Morris departed the university in December 2020, explaining that he was overworked, undervalued, and that his concerns about the university's administrative issues were not being fully heard and addressed.[25]



Xavier is Catholic and historically black, though it has always been open to students of any race and religion. Even so, the vast majority of the student body African-American (though 74.3% are not Catholic).

More than half (58.2%) of Xavier students are from Louisiana – primarily from the New Orleans area. Non-local enrollment continues to increase with students coming from at least 40 other states – most notably Texas (7.5%) and Georgia (4.9%). Five foreign countries are represented on campus. Student life is enriched by the social and cultural setting of New Orleans and by campus activities designed to enhance personal growth, interpersonal skills, and leadership in such areas as community service, the environment, cultural concerns, and social justice.


The faculty at XULA is significantly less Black than its student body, with their Black faculty standing at only 36%. A rarity among HBCUs, their percentage of White faculty (38%) is actually higher—a point bemoaned by some former faculty themselves.[25]



  • Reverend Edward J. Brunner SSJ (1915-1932)
  • Mother M. Agatha Ryan, SBS (1932-1955)
  • Sister Josephina Kenney, SBS (1955-1965)
  • Sister M. Maris Stella Ross, SBS (1965-1968)
  • Dr. Norman C. Francis (1968-2015)
  • Dr. C. Reynold Verret (2015-)
Dr. Norman C. Francis

Norman C. Francis[edit]

At the time of his retirement, President Emeritus Dr. Norman C. Francis was the longest serving president of a university in the United States. Himself a Xavier graduate, he led the university for 47 years (1968-2015) and became a nationally recognized leader in higher education. Among other honors and roles entrusted to him, he served as the head of several national educational groups and in 2006 was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.[26][27]

President Verret

C. Reynold Verret[edit]

Dr. C. Reynold Verret currently is Xavier University of Louisiana's sixth and current president. He assumed his position as the university's leader during the Summer of 2015 and was officially inaugurated in the university's Academic Convocation Center on 26 February 2016.


College of Arts and Sciences[edit]

Academic divisions[edit]

  • Biological and Public Health Sciences
  • Business
  • Education and Counseling
  • Fine Arts and Humanities
  • Mathematical and Physical Sciences
  • Social and Behavioral Sciences

College of Pharmacy[edit]

Academic divisions[edit]

  • Division of Basic Pharmaceutical Sciences
  • Division of Clinical and Administrative Sciences

Pre-Med and biological science programs[edit]

University rankings
U.S. News & World Report[28] 17 (South)
Master's University class
Washington Monthly[29] 114

More African-American alumni of Xavier consistently place into medical school and graduate with baccalaureate degrees in the physical sciences and biological sciences than African-American alumni of any other college or university in the United States.[30][31] Xavier's College of Pharmacy is one of just two pharmacy schools in Louisiana.[32] Xavier consistently ranks among the top three colleges in the nation in graduating African Americans with Pharm.D. degrees.[33]

Dual degree engineering program[edit]

Xavier does not offer engineering degrees but belongs to partnerships with several engineering institutions that automatically admit qualified Xavier science students interested in pursuing a bachelor's in an engineering discipline. Students who successfully complete the program will receive a bachelor's degree from Xavier and the chosen engineering institution in approximately five years. Engineering institutions in partnership with Xavier are Tulane University, University of New Orleans, Southern University at Baton Rouge, Louisiana State University, University of Notre Dame, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, University of Detroit Mercy, Georgia Institute of Technology, and University of Wisconsin at Madison.[34]

Campus life[edit]

SBS Sisters[edit]

The Blessed Sacrament Sisters remain a vital presence on campus, providing much-needed staffing and some financial assistance, but today Xavier is governed by a multicultural Board of Trustees.


Xavier's athletics teams are nicknamed Gold Rush for men's teams and Gold Nuggets for women's teams. The university is a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), competing in the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference (GCAC). Men's sports include basketball, cross country, tennis, and track & field; women's sports include basketball, cross country, tennis, track & field, and volleyball.

Xavier's basketball and volleyball teams compete on campus in their new facility, the Xavier University Academic Convocation Center. The Convocation Center is a $25 million facility with a seating capacity of 4,500.

Student organizations[edit]


Xavier Herald[edit]

The Xavier Herald, the university's student newspaper, has functioned since 1929 as an outlet of the student voice, especially during the Civil Rights Movement and thereafter. It was instrumental in the fight for more Black faculty—the university remains one of the few HBCUs with more White faculty than Black—and for the hiring of Dr. Francis as the university's first lay president, as most of the previous presidents were from the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, who—despite serving minority communities—are largely White.

Other media[edit]

The university currently houses a student radio station, YouTube channel, and a soon-coming podcast.



Through the years, as needs dictated, the campus gradually expanded:

  • Administration Building (1933)
  • Old Library, now Music Department (1937)
  • Gymnasium (1937)
  • Saint Michael's Hall men's dorm (1955)
  • Old Student Center (1962)
  • Saint Joseph's Hall women's dorm (1965)
  • House of Studies (1967)
  • Saint Katharine Drexel Hall women's dorm (1969)
  • College of Pharmacy (1970)
  • Norman C. Francis Academic/Science Complex (1988)
  • Xavier South office building purchased (1990)
  • Library/Resource Center and College of Pharmacy Addition (1993)
  • Peter Claver women's dorm (1994)
  • Norman C. Francis Science Complex addition (1998)
  • The Living Learning Center upperclassmen coed residence (1998)
  • University Student Center (2003)
  • St. Martin de Porres upperclassmen residence (2003)
  • Qatar Pharmacy Pavilion (2010)
  • Convocation Academic Center (2012)
  • Saint Katharine Drexel Chapel (2012)
  • Fitness Center (2015)
Xavier NOLA.jpg

The campus of Xavier University of Louisiana is often referred to as "Emerald City" due to the various buildings on campus that have green roofs. These include the Library/Resource center, the Norman C. Francis science addition, the University Center, the Living Learning Center, the Saint Martin De Porres hall and the Katharine Drexel hall.

Notable alumni[edit]

In addition to former president, Norman C. Francis, distinguished alumni include:

  Class Notability
LaToya Cantrell 1997 The first African-American female mayor of New Orleans.[35]
Jimmie McDaniel c.1940 Famed African-American tennis player who unofficially broke tennis' color barrier with an exhibition match against Don Budge.
Herb Douglas c.1944 Olympic Bronze Medalist in the long jump (1948 Summer Olympics) and the oldest living African-American Olympic medalist. Transferred from XULA in 1942
Nathaniel Clifton 1946 First African-American to sign a contract with an NBA team and stick with a team; member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Attended but did not graduate; left to join the Army during World War II.
Mary Munson Runge 1948 First woman, and first African American, to be elected president of the American Pharmacists Association (APhA).
Ernest Nathan Morial 1951 First African-American mayor of New Orleans. Also the father of former New Orleans mayor and head of National Urban League Marc Morial.
John Stroger 1953 First African-American president of the Cook County, Illinois, Board of Commissioners.
Bernard P. Randolph 1954 USAF General, retired: only the third African-American to reach the rank of four-star general in any branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, serving as head of the USAF Space and Defense Systems Command. Later an executive with the defense contractor TRW Corporation.
Marino Casem 1956 Head football Coach at Alabama State University, Alcorn State University, and Southern University; member of College Football Hall of Fame.
Débria Brown 1958 Mezzo-Soprano opera singer
Philip Berrigan 1963 One-time Josephite Catholic priest and lifelong activist.
John T. Scott 1963 World-famous African-American sculptor, painter, printmaker, collagist, and MacArthur Fellow. Served as Xavier Professor of Art.
Marie McDemmond 1968 First female president at Norfolk State University. Previously served as vice president for finance and chief operating officer at Florida Atlantic University.
Gilbert L. Rochon 1968 Sixth President of Tuskegee University.
Bishop Moses Anderson 1968 The first black bishop to serve in the Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit; Pastor of Precious Blood Parish, Detroit, MI (1992-2001).
Alexis Herman 1969 First African-American U.S. Secretary of Labor; director of the White House office of Public Liaison.
Ivan L. R. Lemelle 1971 Twice U.S. Magistrate Judge, U.S. District Court in New Orleans (eight-year terms).
Vernel Bagneris 1972 Playwright, actor, director, Obie Award Recipient.
Donald "Slick" Watts 1973 NBA Player for the Seattle Supersonics, New Orleans Jazz, and Houston Rockets.
Bruce Seals 1973 ABA Player for the Utah Stars, drafted by the Seattle Super Sonics in the second round of the 1975 NBA draft; NAIA All American, and Associated Press All American.
Regina Benjamin 1979 United States Surgeon General; first physician under the age of 40 and first AA woman named to the American Medical Association's Board of Trustees. Formerly president, Alabama State Medical Association; recipient of MacArthur Genius Award.
Stephen W. Rochon 1984 Director of the Executive Residence and Chief Usher at the White House; Rear Admiral of the Coast Guard.
Todd Stroger 1985 Elected Cook County, Illinois Board President in 2006, succeeding his father, John Stroger.
Gary Carter, Jr. c.1996 Member of the Louisiana House of Representatives for the Algiers neighborhood of New Orleans.
Jared Brossett c.2004 Member of the New Orleans City Council for District D; member of the Louisiana House of Representatives for District 97 in Orleans Parish, 2009-2014.
Candice Stewart 2006 First African American Miss Louisiana USA, she was also Miss Louisiana Teen USA, and an NFL cheerleader for the New Orleans Saints and Houston Texans.
Landon Bussie 2010 Head Men’s Basketball coach at Alcorn State

Notable faculty and staff[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/ xavier-louisiana-2032
  2. ^ http://www2.xula.edu/opira/ir/documents/university-profile/01.pdf
  3. ^ hbculifestyle.com/first-black-catholic-hbcu/#:~:text=The%20Xavier%20University%20of%20Louisiana,both%20historically%20Black%20and%20Catholic.
  4. ^ "'Southern University Property Is Sold Buildings and Lot Bought in at Auction by Harry McEnerny". Times-Picayune. 14 April 1915.
  5. ^ Jr, Peter Finney (2016-09-01). "The Legacy of Saint Katharine Drexel". Franciscan Media. Retrieved 2019-04-24.
  6. ^ "Industrial school for colored youth". The Times-Picayune. 5 September 1915.
  7. ^ a b Baldwin, Lou (2000). Saint Katharine Drexel: Apostle to the Oppressed. Philadelphia, PA: The Catholic Standard and Times. pp. 150–152. ISBN 0-9618073-1-8.
  8. ^ a b "A Historical Sketch of Xavier University of Louisiana," Sister M. Veronica, 1966, Xavier University of Louisiana, Archives & Special Collections
  9. ^ Correspondence, "State of Louisiana Department of Education Baton Rouge to Sister M. Eucharia," 9 September, 1921, Xavier University of Louisiana, Archives & Special Collections.
  10. ^ "In the whole United States...". The Catholic Tribune (St. Joseph, Missouri). 15 April 1922. p. 9.
  11. ^ McCarthy, Joseph J., "History of Black Catholic Education in the Chicago, 1871-1971" (1973). Pages 72-74.
  12. ^ Correspondence, "State of Louisiana Department of Education Baton Rouge to Sister Mary Frances, Dean," 19 March, 1928, Xavier University of Louisiana, Archives & Special Collections.
  13. ^ "National Register of Historic Places Nomination: Xavier University Main Building, Convent and Library, Orleans Parish, LA". National Park Service. January 16, 2004. Retrieved December 25, 2017.
  14. ^ "Xavier University". KnowLouisiana.org. Retrieved December 25, 2017.
  15. ^ Pope, John. "Xavier University being transformed by influx of money following Hurricane Katrina". Retrieved 11 August 2012.
  16. ^ Clark, Kim. "Norman Francis: Xavier's President Led Through Hurricane Katrina". USA News. Retrieved 11 August 2012.
  17. ^ Block, Melissa. "Students Return to Louisiana's Xavier University". NPR. Retrieved 11 August 2012.
  18. ^ Strom, Stephanie. "Qatar Grants Millions in Aid to New Orleans". New York Times. Retrieved 11 August 2012.
  19. ^ "Obama Speech - Xavier University Commencement - New Orleans - Full Text". obamaspeeches.com. Retrieved 2021-03-18.
  20. ^ Luke, Michael (2009-04-23). "Archbishop will not attend Xavier commencement, citing pro-abortion speaker". Houma Today. Retrieved 2021-03-18.
  21. ^ "Remarks by the President on the Fifth Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, Louisiana". whitehouse.gov. Retrieved 11 August 2012 – via National Archives.
  22. ^ "Katrina Compassion Awards". Corporation for National & Community Service. Archived from the original on September 16, 2012. Retrieved 11 August 2012.
  23. ^ USNews rankings. Retrieved December 24, 2017.
  24. ^ https://www.cbsnews.com/news/three-hbcus-announce-they-received-the-largest-donations-in-the-schools-histories/
  25. ^ a b Robinson-Morris, David (2020-12-01). "Pressing Forward and Fearing Nothing: A New Adventure". David W. Robinson-Morris, Ph.D. Retrieved 2021-03-18.
  26. ^ "Norman C. Francis, Ph.D. - U.S. News STEM Solutions". U.S. News STEM Solutions. Retrieved 2017-12-24.
  27. ^ "Celebrating Dr. Norman Francis at his last Xavier University commencement: Editorial". NOLA.com. Retrieved 2017-12-24.
  28. ^ "Best Colleges 2021: Regional Universities Rankings". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved September 24, 2020.
  29. ^ "2020 Rankings -- Masters Universities". Washington Monthly. Retrieved August 31, 2020.
  30. ^ Pope, John. "Xavier leads the nation in African-American medical graduates". Times-Picayune. Retrieved 11 August 2012.
  31. ^ A Prescription for More Black Doctors: How does tiny Xavier University in New Orleans manage to send more African-American students to medical school than any other college in the country? New York Times Retrieved September 10, 2015.
  32. ^ University of Louisiana at Monroe (ULM) also offers the Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree, but, unlike Xavier, ULM is under public control and in the northern part of Louisiana.
  33. ^ "College of Pharmacy General Information". Archived from the original on September 2, 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-03.
  34. ^ webmaster@xula.edu, name. "Dual Degree Engineering Program". www.xula.edu. Retrieved 2017-12-24.
  35. ^ http://www.xula.edu/mediarelations/tmax_may2018.html
  36. ^ "Edward S. Bopp". bopplawfirm.com. Retrieved June 28, 2015.
  37. ^ Brack, Naomii. "Antoine M. Garibaldi (1950- )". Retrieved 2021-01-15.
  38. ^ "Frank Hercules, 85, Novelist and Teacher (Published 1996)". The New York Times. 1996-05-13. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-01-11.
  39. ^ "NBA pioneer Harold Hunter, an ex-Xavier coach, died Thursday". Times-Picayune. 2013-03-07. Retrieved 2013-03-30.
  40. ^ Continelli, Louise. "BREAKING JOURNALISM'S CLOSED CIRCLE PEARL STEWART EDITS AND LEADS". The Buffalo News. Retrieved 2021-01-11.
  41. ^ "JAMES YESTADT Obituary (1921 - 2020) - New York Times". www.legacy.com. Retrieved 2021-01-12.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]